Jan Meyers Proett
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|Posted on January 14, 2013 at 5:26 PM|
“Sometimes she rages, sometimes she simply raises an eyebrow.”
And so it begins.
Since posting a blog titled Beauty Trumps Bitch, I have been relieved at the response. As I mentioned, I was nervous. So far the people I have heard from are grateful, and appreciative of a glimpse into the content of the book Beauty and the Bitch. Well, this is from the people I heard from, anyway.
If you struggle with the title, I get it. There is a plethora of reasons to struggle. I did. I really don’t want the title of the book Beauty and the Bitch, to get in the way of people reading on, reading in, to the true message of the book, found in the subtitle: Grace for the Worst in Me. My publisher asked me to answer a few simple questions, which might help flesh out my writing process, and the motivation behind this book. Here are the questions, and my responses:
1. Why I am writing the book
I stood in the bathroom, drying my hair one day after a disheartening few weeks in my marriage. I felt so ‘less than myself,’ discouraged that I couldn’t quite find any sense of beauty as I tried to shake off a hardness that felt so, well - justified. I had not been raging, at least not in obvious ways. But I had been cold, withholding myself, like a little girl who tucks a treasure under her arms with a not for you look on her face.
I love my marriage. I’m a marriage counselor; and one who works toward inner transformation rather than from tips and techniques. I work with women’s hearts – married and single - all the time. I live in a community that values living authentically, from a whole heart. For over thirty years I’ve been given the most exceptional resources Christendom can offer. I’ve been mentored by the best, believed in and known by really great leaders, and I am grateful for a trustworthy, true reputation.
Blah, blah, blah.
As I stood before that mirror, I knew I was being a chronic bitch.
It wasn’t obvious this time (like the time I threw a cup). But it doesn’t take rage to make us ugly. As I have said to clients and friends, “Sometimes she rages, sometimes she simply raises an eyebrow.”
I literally put the blow drier down on the counter with the realization that, if other people could view how I was being in my home, I would not be thought of as beautiful. If a video of some of my recent behavior was played on 20/20, the viewers would think to themselves, “What a bitch.” This realization made me sad. It was at that moment that Jesus said to me, “I don’t think my love has changed. Is there grace for the worst in you?” It was so kind. So simple. It melted me. In that moment I knew I would write this book. I was certain other beautiful women become discouraged with the dark underbelly of their lives. I wanted to disarm the shame.
The reality is: True beauty comes and finds us and laughs that we were looking the other way. We as women have brilliant ways of looking the other way. Control. Fear. Rage. Pride. Addiction. Deadness. These giants rise in our hearts perpetually, surfacing in sophisticated ways when we are able to hide them and in humiliating ways when we can’t. And generally those tendencies get augmented by our stories and the scenes we have lived which make living from these unlovely and destructive places seem more than justified.
The good news is: Fear can be trumped by love, pride trumped by the hilarity of God, shame trumped by mercy, deadness trumped by creativity, rage trumped by kindness, and the demands of addiction trumped by gratitude and rest—if a woman discovers grace, and its power to release her truest beauty. Beauty will win if she can be caught off guard by Jesus, who celebrates her even though she doesn’t trust him.
2. Why you should read Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me
If you are a woman, you should read this book if you love being beautiful, but are weary of trying hard to get there or maintain it.
If you are a man, it is not likely you will give this book to your wife or girlfriend as a gift. “Honey, I really love you and would love for you to read a book about how you are so much more than the bitch you become” probably is not the greatest avenue to intimacy (smile). I can tell you, though, that the greatest proponents of the book so far have been men. Men – all men – live with hard women sometimes. Even the most glorious, godly, compelling women disintegrate into sullen, controlling, unlovely beings sometimes. It seems good to admit this, to remember that the deeper things can’t be eradicated, even by the worst season of bitchiness or the worst effects of long-term hardness born of unhealed places. There’s hope for the women in your life because Beauty – the Life of Christ – is always accessible, waiting there to love her and release her back into who she really is, if she is willing to stumble home.
3. Why I am writing for Bondfire Books:
Oh my, this has been a process. I wrote a good portion of this book a few years ago, and my publishing agency (Alive Communications) was excited about its core message about the Life of Christ being inextinguishable in the heart of women whose lives have been ransomed by the love of God. Our zeal took a hit, though, when we received the same response back from just about every Christian publishing house: “We love the book, we love your writing, and we think this is an important message, but we can’t move ahead with this title.” I was in a dilemma, because I did not want to die on a hill named ‘bitch.’ We played around with different titles for a while “A Woman’s War,” “Beauty and the Beast” – no, wait, that’s been taken - ! - , “Beauty Wins” All the titles we played with were fine, but there a sense that we were trying to placate, to convince ourselves that reality isn’t as bad as it can be. It remained true: there is just no other word for who we become. There no other word, at least, for the meaning it has taken on in our culture (not the tender original moniker for female/mother animals). And there is no greater hope than knowing that the worst of us, the ugliest realities, can’t erase the deeper good stuff God wants to surface in us, despite ourselves.
The Christian publishing world is driven strongly by the acceptance of books into certain bookstore chains, which would not carry a book with this title. The shelves are filled with what I call ‘Christian culture books.’ Lots of books about ‘how to live a Christian life.’ But I have needed an internal transformation, change from within, not something pressuring me to become a better me. We need honest conversations, about our honest need. A ‘christian culture lifestyle’ isn’t attractive to most folks not familiar with the gospel of the beautiful kingdom of Jesus Christ. A heart changed, transformed and grateful to be in that kingdom – that is attractive. In addition, I have a strong visceral reaction to censorship which has the label ‘Christian’ slapped on it and is therefore sanctioned. I weary of the word Christian being used as an adjective.
So I kept looking. Truly not wanting to push the title, but also believing the content of the book holds life. Thankfully, Patton Dodd and Bondfire Books were unflinching with the title, and responsive and encouraging about the content. I’m grateful for the ethos of Bondfire – one that is author driven, very engaging and respectful of their process. They give room to both the author, the writing process. They desire to let the book become what it wants to become, not forcing it into a certain template, length, or tone. Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me needs that kind of freedom in order to be written well.